The events of the last week of the first month of the Persian year (mid April) can be better understood through Oriental discovery and explained in political terms rather than using the traditional method of lining up the factual events around the world. Sometimes some inside information or events inside this complex regime simply leak out.
Related Article: The Islamic Republic Will Never Be the Same
During the whole of last week, eyes were set on Istanbul, the host of the nuclear negotiating teams. The team for the international community was led by Baroness Catherine Ashton, the British woman responsible for the foreign affairs of the European Union. While being flexibility in her ways, this time she wore a white scarf around her neck to prevent her images from being manipulated by Islamic republic Photoshop manipulators. Still, she is resilient enough not to heed to the pressures of the Iranian team to lift the sanctions against Iran.
The apparent head of Iran’s negotiation’s team is Saeed Jalili who like many other Iranian officials is riding on the credit he gained from his participation in the 8-year Iran-Iraq war, the same place where seyed Ali Khamenei hunted his future associates. But even being wounded in the leg is not sufficiently qualified in the Islamic republic. In the tradition of Oriental government, it is the Sultan who runs all affairs through members of his own family. Saeed Jalili, who does not speak English, is only the nominal head who obeys the orders of Ali Bagheri, the husband of one of Khamenei’s daughters and so comes directly from the household of the supreme leader. Having graduated from a key university that trains the elite in the Islamic republic and knowledgeable in English, Bagheri represents the new breed of Iranian decision makers and managers. He has access to the ear of the supreme leader while at the same time is equipped with the tools of modern politics. Imam Sadegh University where Bagheri studied was created prior to the 1979 revolution to host a branch of Harvard University in Tehran.
On the eve of the Istanbul meeting and at the height of the cold war between the leaders and media in Iran and Turkey, Ali Bagheri first travelled to Baghdad to prepare the grounds for the possible 2nd meeting of the nuclear talks, and then, after a short return to Tehran, went to Beijing to talk with Chinese leaders.
In between his trip to Baghdad and Beijing, and prior to his visit of Istanbul, Bagheri once again talked with Yevgeni Lukyanov, the assistant secretary of the Russian national security council about the recent developments affecting the nuclear talks. Lukyanov was in Tehran on March 14 at the invitation of Bagheri and stayed in the country for three days. According to Helga Schmid, Catherine Ashton’s deputy, Ali Bagheri was the official party in the talks between the senior diplomats of the EU.
In an extensive interview with the official gazette of the Iranian government, the Iran, Ali Bagheri talked about the nuclear talks and the foreign relations of the Islamic republic and also announced his repeated visits to Brussels and his talks with representatives of the EU.
Parallel to the talks of the son-in-law of Iran’s supreme leader, Hossein Mousavian, the former Iranian negotiator at the nuclear talks who now lives in the US and enjoys no official position today, has also become active in another way. In addition to the many articles and interviews that have been published on and by him, reports have been published in Iran’s private political climate indicating that he too has been engaging US officials on these issues. These reports were made public after the Istanbul talks when the semi-secret trip by Hassan Rowhani, the head of Iran’s nuclear negotiation team during Mohammad Khatami’s presidency were also revealed along with his political contacts, all of which were denied by him as expected as part of the policy of the Islamic republic.
But more than anything else, it was Hashemi Rafsanjani’s public reemergence and his defense of talks with the US that validated the change in the political atmosphere regarding the nuclear issue, something that he attributed to the “flexibility” of the supreme leader.
The Istanbul talks, the published news on the subject and the reemergence of tension just two days after the talks indicate two important points, both of which indicate the same conclusion.
The two points are these:
The combination of the supreme leader’s approach, i.e., resistance to the West and non-compromise, and Rafsanjani’s approach, i.e., softness with a smile, look like a Persian carpet which behind its pretty facade is knitted with very strong knots. Behind the soft words of Rafsanjani’s team during the private and behind the scenes dinner party one can see the views and thoughts of ayatollah Khamenei.
During the decade of confrontation over Iran’s nuclear issue, the two approaches of softness, pursued by Rafsanjani-Khatami, and bullishness, pursued by Ahmadinejad, have been rejected because of Khamenei’s US phobia. Because of this phobia, Khamenei has been perpetually concerned about the opening of relations through channels other than his own which could ultimately result in regime change.
Today, the very president who the supreme leader once proclaimed was closer to him than Rafsanjani, has been politely eliminated from the nuclear dossier altogether as Khamenei pursues his approach through his son-in-law through Rafsanjani’s approach. The “step-by-step” policy, whose first step is the beginning of the lifting of sanctions against Iran which Saeed Jalili has privately told Ms Ashton a “hundred times,” in Jalili’s words, and which is officially announced after the talks, can be extracted to be the Iranian interpretation of events.
The Iranian perspective of democracy and human rights, views the Islamic republic move towards the ballot box for a national election under complete regime control, including the nuclear issue. From this perspective, this latest movement is taking place with a single and benign nuclear wing lacking a strategic content.
In the words of political prisoner Abolfazl Ghadiyani who came out of prison for a short visit, “Mr. Khamenei is the key responsible person for the catastrophe that has befallen on the country.”
But who shall be held responsible for misunderstanding the deeper intensions of the Islamic republic and trusting the “nuclear fatwa” which has a thousand ways to be revoked at will?
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